Healthy Beginnings

A Different Recession: Trouble at the Gum Line

It’s the best of lines. It can be the worst of lines. It’s your gum line, and chances are, it’s not as healthy as you think.

Gums (gingiva) are soft, pink-toned tissue protectively wrapped around the base of teeth, guarding the roots. Working in conjunction with the periodontal ligament and bone tissue, they hold teeth in place. Bacteria hide in the crevices between the gums and teeth, causing infections and cavities and resulting in recession of gums and bone support, all of which leads to tooth loss.

Our gum tissue is under siege. According to recent data compiled by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), half of all adult U.S. citizens have gum disease–also known as periodontal disease–a major cause of gum recession. Gingivitis, a milder form of gum disease, if left untreated, develops into periodontitis, a far more virulent form of infection.

As prevalent as it is, periodontal disease is only one of many contributing factors that can result in a shrinking gum line:

Genetics – About 30 percent of people have genetic markers that increase likelihood
they will develop receding gums. The good news: employing strategies for good overall health and dental care can help minimize the effects of this tendency.

Bad habits – Smoking, tobacco use, alcohol and substance abuse are bad news for your
gums, at least doubling the likelihood you will have gingival recession. Piercings of the tongue or lips wear away at soft tissue with the same results.

Medical and health issues – Diabetes, cancer treatments, obesity, as well as the use of
certain prescription medications have an impact on the health of your gums, and are cited as factors for developing gum problems.

Improper dental care – Harsh horizontal-motion tooth brushing and use of a hard-
bristle brush wear away at the gum line. Neglecting daily flossing and failing to keep regular dental appointments is a recipe for disaster.

Gender – Men have a slightly higher statistical chance of problems, perhaps
attributable to being less attentive with dental care. Although, women who are pregnant or experiencing menopause can also experience gum recession.

Early symptoms of periodontal damage aren’t easy to spot. Gums that are discolored (these can be difficult to see without a trained eye), bleeding or swollen, should be examined as soon as possible to determine the cause. If you notice your teeth are looking longer, or you feel a notch toward the base of a tooth, the gums may have receded and require attention. Persistent bad breath and loose teeth can also signal damage underway, but severe damage may have already occurred. Through regular dental examinations, problem areas can be identified and treated in a timely and effective manner.

Treatment for receding gums starts with assessment, followed by a thorough professional cleaning. Proper at-home care including gentle brushing and daily flossing often helps reverse gingivitis. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed to help heal pockets of infection around the base of teeth. For stubborn tartar and plaque buildup, a procedure to scrape away the excess material is also needed.

Laser therapy and the PerioProtect Tray are two of the best methods to control gum disease and reduce the risk of the Oral-Systemic Link (bacteria entering the blood stream and contributing to other diseases).

By employing lifestyle changes and following guidelines for proper dental care, the progression of gum disease can be stopped in the early stages, long before surgery becomes necessary. Gentle vertical-brushing and daily flossing, as well as regular dental visits can help you maintain a healthy gum line throughout your lifetime.

Don’t let advancing gum recession lead to depression; make a difference for yourself by improving your dental health. It’s not JUST about gum health anymore; healthy gums can lead to a longer, healthier life. Laser dentistry and PerioProtect is a good place to start. Remember, THE FIRST STEP TO A HEALTHY BODY IS A HEALTHY MOUTH!



For more info, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. J.S. McElhinney, III call (775) 525-8877.